The Tea Party hysteria is producing all sorts of topics for debate this election season – like having Clarence Thomas’ wife call Anita Hill and ask for an apology. Kind of backfired, though, didn’t it? As Bill Maher said last Saturday, “gee, drunk dial much?” On the other side of the fence, our collective society of impossible scrutiny on candidates has another opportunity to review the Eliot Spitzer story, courtesy of Alex Gibney. Client 9 is a film about the fall of Eliot Spitzer, who was on the hunt for Wall Street crooks big time. But because he was out of control in another area of his life — a lustful need for hookers — his political career was completely derailed.
The New York Times’ David Carr writes up Client 9, which we all refer to as “The Spitzer doc, and talks a bit to Gibney:
But Mr. Gibney is a filmmaker who is never content to leave well enough alone; there is always a story behind the story. He suggests that Mr. Spitzer, who as New York State‚Äôs attorney general had poked some of the most powerful figures in American capitalism right in the eye, may have been the victim of something beyond his own moral shortcomings.
The conspiracy to take down Mr. Spitzer may be a major preoccupation of ‚ÄúClient 9,‚Äù but Mr. Spitzer‚Äôs halting attempts to explain himself may prove more riveting.
‚ÄúI think the better way to answer that is that he was a force for good,‚Äù Mr. Gibney said. ‚ÄúThere has always been corruption in American business, but what has changed is that the new class of rich has become untethered to normal people. They are only tethered to other rich people, and here you have a rich and powerful guy who cares about what is happening to those people and decides to punch back.‚Äù
Mr. Gibney agrees that Mr. Spitzer was the author of his own downfall, but his film suggests there were plenty of eager hands ready to help that descent along. He points out that Kenneth Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot and a former director of the New York Stock Exchange who was assailed by Mr. Spitzer for signing off on a huge salary for the leader of the nonprofit exchange, seemed to know a lot about the governor‚Äôs day-to-day life.
‚ÄúHow did Kenneth Langone know that Spitzer was in line at the post office sending money orders to the escort service? Whenever my conspiracy gene kicks in, I have to check myself, but I doubt that Langone even knows anyone who goes to the post office,‚Äù he said. So Mr. Spitzer was being followed? ‚ÄúSomebody was watching him.‚Äù
Clearly Mr. Spitzer was acting recklessly for someone in the public eye, and among the people who were amazed were those who worked at the escort service that he patronized. Cecil Suwal, the improbable 23-year-old ‚Äúoperations manager‚Äù of Emperor‚Äôs Club V.I.P., is something of a giggle box of truth. ‚ÄúUltimately, vice just took over virtue, and he could not control himself,‚Äù she says in the film, with a disarming, girlish laugh.
The film spends a great deal of time delving into the high-end prostitution business, but the viewer can‚Äôt help but dwell on the fact that Mr. Spitzer put his future in the hands of a child-woman madam who had custody of his most intimate secrets.
I mean, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, isn’t it? Power and access make you horny and available. I get it that to feel like the Alpha Male/silverback-in-charge you need to bag a lot of dames. Our biology insists upon it. But do you have to do it when you’re in a government position? The answer to that should always be, despite the precedent set by Kennedy (eg, he got “away with it”), NO. Think of it like a higher calling to become a priest or a nun: you keep it in your pants or you don’t put the people’s future in your hands.
What’s depressing is that Spitzer’s career was pretty much ruined for something that really isn’t our business to begin with.